A Monster Calls (3/3/20)

A Monster Calls is a beautiful piece of literature, film, and now theatre. A tangle of branches, ropes and emotion that creates a story so elegant you leave the theatre speechless.

Everything about this piece was so perfectly cohesive I don’t know where to start so I will follow the title and talk about the titular “Monster” (Keith Gilmore) created such a looming and dominant presence on stage it was impossible not to look anywhere else while he was on stage. And the lighting and stage effects used to create the tree were beautiful. Ropes effortlessly were tied together in an ever-changing and morphing fashion that created a perfectly eerie atmosphere on stage.

When not in use, the ropes hung freely in a blank white space designed by Michael Vale and interrupted the mess of rectangular lights ( Lighting Designer: Aideen Malone) as a reminder the monster is always there. A very well thought out idea, that really helps the atmosphere on stage.

Another wonderful addition to this atmosphere was the haunting music, composed by Benji Bower. The music is both emotional and unsettling at exactly the right points. Everything came together in the perfect balance that complimented the actors’ wonderful performances beautifully.

The story revolves around Conor O’Malley. His mother is sick and is undertaking chemotherapy treatment all the while He is haunted by a recurring nightmare; his “truth”. It is at this point the Monster comes Walking and tells him three tales, and warns that Conor will tell his truth as the fourth tale. Ammar Duffus is sublime as Connor. His performance as a 13 year old boy dealing with grief is the perfect balance of comedy and truth. There is a point in act one where his face was covered in tears. Thanks to this there was not a dry eye in the house by the end of the show.

The three tales of the show are told through innovative physical theatre moments, where rope is used throughout as many different things, a crown, a baby, and even car seatbelts. Yet when in the real world, all the props are natural. This contrast of naturalist props against the stylised background helped to support Connor’s confusion as to whether this Monster is real or not.

This show is beautiful. Simply beautiful. I urge everyone to see this wonderful story, to which I’m sure we can all relate.